Bernie’s Daily Redbird Review: Cards’ Offense And Starting Pitching Have A Lost Weekend In Oakland

The Daily Redbird Review for Aug. 5.

FIRST PITCH: After two straight losses and two rounds of ugly baseball over the weekend in Oakland, the Cardinals were bounced out of Alameda County and into second place in the NL Central.

No doubt about. The Cardinals, who led the Cubs by a game going into Friday, had a crummy weekend. They failed to win either game against the A’s, and the Cubs (as usual) went wild at home by sweeping a three-game series from the Brewers at Wrigley Field.

And just like that the Cardinals are go into Los Angeles with a deficit of 1 and ½ games behind the first-place Cubs. The third-place Brewers trail the Cubs by four, and the Cards by 2 and ½.

The current trend: downward, with the Cardinals having lost five of their last seven games. Since smashing their way to a 7-1 road trip through Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, the Cardinals are 3-5 and have averaged only 3 runs per game.

And the Cardinals are 1-3 since the end of the trade deadline … hmmm.

BLAME GAME: There’s a lot to go around. But the primary weaknesses, obviously, are starting pitching and a dull offense.

We’ll get to the offense later.

Let’s focus on the starting pitching and a rotation that didn’t get any help during the trade deadline. No surprise, then, to see such miserable results in Oakland.

Dakota Hudson and Adam Wainwright started the two games and combined to throw only nine innings, giving up six runs with eight walks and three hit batters.

Cardinals starters have a 5.51 road ERA that ranks 26th overall, and 14th in the NL.

They also rank 14th overall in the league in overall walk rate and have the worst road walk rate in the NL.

The starters’ strikeout-walk ratio is tied for the worst in the National League.

This isn’t anything new.

TURNING POINT: After Sunday’s 4-2 loss, Wainwright himself called it the turning point, so we’ll go with that. Bottom of the fourth, Cardinals up 1-0 on a solo homer by Pauly DeJong. With one out, Wainwright hit two consecutive Oakland batters on 0-2 counts, and that set up a two-run double by catcher Dustin Garneau, the A’s No. 9 hitter. The Cardinals never reclaimed the lead.

HEY, YOU DID GOOD: There weren’t many positives for the Cardinals in Oakland. The DeJong homer was welcome. But let’s offer more praise to second baseman Kolten Wong, who cut Oakland’s lead to 3-2 on an RBI single.

The run was delivered on a very nice piece of opposite-field hitting by Wong; you’d think some of his teammates would take notes. In his last 16 games Wong is batting .377 with a .443 onbase percentage and .491 slug.

LOOK, YOU NEED TO DO BETTER: After going 2 for 26 in his minor-league rehab assignment third baseman Matt Carpenter returned to the Cardinals on Sunday. It wasn’t a good restart for him. After singling to start the game, Carpenter (1) was called out on strikes in the third; (2) stranded two runners in the fourth by swinging at a high, out-of-zone pitch and striking out; (3) harmlessly flew out in each of his final two at-bats.

Marcell Ozuna also returned from the IL this weekend and went 1-for-8 in the two games. He had a big miss Sunday, striking out with the bases loaded in the third.

In the two losses at Oakland the Cardinals batted .194, went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and struck out in 27 percent of their overall plate appearances.

The smart approach by Oakland’s hitters really exposed the flaws of the STL hitting performance.

SECOND GUESSING SHILDTY: It’s time to cool the infatuation with Tommy Edman, who has a .281 OBP for the season. You brought up outfielder Lane Thomas from Memphis — so why not use him? You don’t need Edman starting games in the outfield. Edman has a 51 wRC+ since the All-Star break.

GOOD MOVE SHILDTY: Nothing comes to mind.

BREATHLESS: The Dodgers, 43-15 at home this season, are waiting for the Cardinals. The Dodgers are 14-3-1 in their 18 home series this season.

ON DECK: Tonight at 9:10 p.m. St. Louis time, Michael Wacha makes his return to the rotation against the Dodgers’ Tony Gonsolin. This will be Gonsolin’s third MLB appearance and second start.

TRACKING THE BREWERS: Tough weekend for the Crew at Wrigley Field, losing all three games, getting outscored 17-5. The Brewers — 57-56 overall this season — are 24-32 on the road. And while Milwaukee’s chronic pitching problems are well documented, the Brewer offense isn’t living up to its reputation.

Through the first six games on a nine-game road trip that continues in Pittsburgh, the Brewers have scored 14 total runs, an average of 2.3 runs. They’re also  4-for-38 with runners in scoring position; that includes a 2-for-17 dud with RISP in Chicago.

“It’s just a tough stretch, and we’ve got to get through it,” manager Craig Counsell told Brewers’ media after Sunday’s 7-2 loss to the Cubs. Counsell “It’s tough to predict how to do that. It’ll come. We have talented offensive players. The runs are going to come.”

The Brewers are 28th in the majors with a .243 average with runners in scoring position and are 17th in OPS with RISP.  And their overall ERA (4.98) since the All-Star break ranks 13th in the NL.

The Brewers are 18-27 in their last 45 games.

“It’s been a rough stretch,” Counsell said. “Offensively – and I’d say pitching wise – we need a big performance. This is kind of a time when you need a bunch of guys to step up.”

TRACKING THE CUBS: Chicago has the third-best starting pitching ERA (3.16) since the All Star break. And Cubs starting pitchers have gone six straight games without walking an opponent. The Cubs, as usual, dominate teams that venture into Wrigley. After whacking the Brewers the Cubs are 39-18 at Wrigley and 21-33 on the road in 2019.

“It’s going to come down to the wire. We know that,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said, speaking to reporters after Sunday’s win.  “It can be spit up, chewed out, thrown in a hundred different computers, but it’s going to come down to the wire. That’s the way it’s going to be this year and we’re ready. We’re ready to just keep playing.”

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie